Molotov cocktail incident sign of growing political polarisation

Kenneth Cheng Chee Kin

The recent incident of a Molotov cocktail being thrown in the vicinity of Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham underscores the escalating political polarisation in our society. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 14, 2024.

THE recent incident of a Molotov cocktail being thrown in the vicinity of Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham underscores the escalating political polarisation in our society. 

Given the polarised state of our society and the heightened political tensions, it is reasonable to suspect that Ngeh was targeted for his controversial remarks. His recent proposal to include non-Muslims in a special committee on the shariah law panel faced heavy criticism from both PAS and Bersatu.

However, it is unwise for him to blame PAS and Bersatu for inciting hatred against him.

Even though the police have not ruled out the possibility of political violence, Ngeh could have risen above the situation by refraining from publicly linking PAS and Bersatu to the arson attack.

From a political standpoint, Ngeh could have restored some of his reputation by giving PAS and Bersatu the benefit of the doubt and only passing judgment after the investigation is completed.

It is reassuring to hear that Ngeh is willing to forgive the alleged arsonist, and this magnanimity should extend to the opposition. This would also send a strong message that politicians can have disagreements without letting them escalate into violence.

No matter how PAS and Bersatu might feel they were wronged by Ngeh’s accusations, the two parties should have shown empathy for Ngeh’s and accorded him the same courtesy and benefit of the doubt. Compassion and grace from PAS and Bersatu MPs towards a parliamentary colleague who has just experienced a life-threatening incident should have been evident.

Unfortunately, PAS and Bersatu were offended by Ngeh’s accusations and proceeded to criticise him again.

In defence of Ngeh, he has unreservedly apologised for his remarks, yet people like Wan Saiful Wan Jan have refused to accept his apology.

The current state of Malaysian politics is deeply concerning, with polarisation reaching a point where any disagreement seems destined for a confrontational outcome.

There is undoubtedly a connection between the continuous deployment of issues of race and religion and the weakening of our democracy. To some extremists, DAP is not just an ideological opposition but an “enemy” of the state.

These distorted views have not been genuinely condemned or expunged by PAS and Bersatu. At times, they even flirt with such perspectives. Similarly, the constant demonisation of PAS voters as “walaun” on the other side only poisons the middle ground.

Unfortunately, our current politics operate in a manner in which both sides fail to recognise each other, leading to continued polarisation that may ultimately result in violence, with MPs facing harassment, intimidation, or even murder, as seen in the case of the Jo Cox in the UK, who was murdered by a white supremacist.

Nascent political violence in other democracies due to polarisation serves as a warning that Malaysian politicians should heed. Although our democracy has experienced a change in power, political differences must not legitimise violence.

This necessitates solidarity for people in Ngeh’s situation, even when irreconcilable differences exist. After all, being in government holds no value if the people of the country cannot come together, and democracy is on the verge of crumbling. 

* Kenneth Cheng has always been interested in the interplay between human rights and government but more importantly he is a father of two cats, Tangyuan and Toufu. When he is not attending to his feline matters, he is most likely reading books about politics and human rights or playing video games. He is a firm believer in the dictum “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”.

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